Monday, April 21, 2008

Is the Coulee really so bad?

UND student Dave Barta has put three years worth of effort into devising a plan to clean up the English Coulee. On Sunday, Barta presented his plan to the UND Student Senate and members of the city council. The plan, which carries a price tag of $330,000, would clean up the small stream that winds through the city of Grand Forks and the UND campus (Herald article). According to Barta, the English Coulee "is a drain to the community" and "looks and smells gross."

I'm excited to see another young person who, like me, has a keen interest in improving life in this community. I'm sure Barta has put a tremendous amount of effort and research into this and he deserves our utmost attention. I just wonder if the English Coulee is really such a "drain to the community" after all.

I have always thought the English Coulee is a tremendous asset to the city. As a former UND student, I have had very close contact with the Coulee on a day-to-day basis. I also am an avid walker who has spent many a spring or summer night taking long walks along the paths bordering the Coulee.

I have honestly never noticed a persistent bad smell that can be associated with the stream. Sure, the Coulee - like most bodies of water - can have a bit of a "funky" smell at certain times of the year, but I think that is a fairly rare occurrence and I always thought of it as nothing so out of the ordinary.

As far as looking bad, I have always thought just the opposite of the English Coulee. The stream meanders its way through the UND campus and - while it's true that the water is not actively flowing at all times of the year - I never think it looks so bad. In fact, I have always found the Coulee and all of the diverse vegetation bordering it as one of the most picturesque parts of this community.

Over the years, the city has developed the area along the English Coulee as a miniature "greenway" of sorts. Now that we have the massive Red River greenway, I see one giant system of green space and bike paths that any city of Grand Forks' size would be envious of.

I would be happy to see some money spent to clean up the English Coulee if that's what it really needs. I just worry a little that altering the English Coulee could hurt what I see as a real asset - not a drain - to the community. Would implementing this plan hurt the vegetation or natural setting of the Coulee?

Do I just have rose colored glasses? What do you think of the English Coulee? Is it an asset or a "drain" to the community?

30 comments:

thewanderingjew said...

I have only one question as you ponder this situation GFG: would you let your children swim in the Coulee?

Anonymous said...

It's not bad, for a stream that has lots of manure and field run-off in it, not to mention storm water....

Anonymous said...

The old joke about getting a tetanus shot if you swim in it is not a joke. The coulee is a dumpground.

What is the plan? I can't imagine 330K doing anything more than an annual cleanup.

Dion Studinski said...

I like the Coulee and have even canoed it a time or two. I think that the biggest "problem" with it, is the lack of moving water. If there was more movement, the algae, etc wouldn't be able to build up as much, therefore reducing the smell. Also, mosquitos love standing water... Yes, there is some garbage strewn about, but that should be picked up anyways. I just question what $300K could really do to the heart of the problem.

Dion Studinski said...

I like the Coulee and have even canoed it a time or two. I think that the biggest "problem" with it, is the lack of moving water. If there was more movement, the algae, etc wouldn't be able to build up as much, therefore reducing the smell. Also, mosquitos love standing water... Yes, there is some garbage strewn about, but that should be picked up anyways. I just question what $300K could really do to the heart of the problem.

Lynsey said...

It may look nice, but it smells awful, and I've seen dead fish floating through campus more often than what I think is normal.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason it is illegal to swim in the Red River or the English Coulee within the city limits of Grand Forks...

Anonymous said...

yeah, anon..that reason is they are water supplies - not because of some dirty water conspiracy. The Red flows all year, and although the water is muddy, it is cleaner in a sense of micro-organisms and others than Devil's Lake. There is a reason Manitobans demanded a filter on the water from the lake before it hit the red, you know.

Anonymous said...

I heard there are lots of used needles in there. From the 70's and 80s.

Anonymous said...

Altru used to dump waste in there way back when it was united. I live on the coulee and i dont think any sum of moeny could clean up that "swamp".

Anonymous said...

"Altru used to dump waste in there way back when it was united."

Is that true? Can it be proven? Make them pay for the clean-up.

Anonymous said...

I say clean it up, and turn it into a canoe/kayak/bike trail/ etc etc. Next public works: a swimmin' hole in the Red

Anonymous said...

I happened to be driving by the Coulee on Saturday and I noticed there is a lot of garbage laying in it. I thought to myself wouldn't it be great if we could organize a day for the community to come out and help clean it up. I don't think $300,000 needs to be spent, but as members of this community we should all be willing to pitch in from time to time and clean up.

Anonymous said...

If the University and students could strike a deal about the clean up that might help. I'm thinking along the line of: if students volunteer to clean the coulee, they don't need to take final exams and automatically pass the class.

Matthew said...

There's been some talk about that from various students this semester, but I don't know if anyone is going to get anything together.

As far as what that $300,000 is for, that is listed in the article. There is also an article by Tu-Uyen Tran on the net somewhere that talks a little more about what Dave sees as the problems.

The best thing to do to make it a "healthier" stream is to increase the flow--there are few fish, no clams (I asked Dave about this a while back), and little else due to the high salinity and almost no oxygen. From my understanding though, the coulee runs from nowhere to nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Who is going to pay for it? I don't think it is anything more than a smelly ditch.

Logan said...

The University should take cue from the city officials responsible for the Greenway Project. They have done a beautiful job cleaning the banks and removing loads of brush that collect garbage. A great example is the area surrounding the Red River dam, north of Riverside Park.

From what I understand, the Coulee only flows when the Red is high enough to spill into it, which is why it doesn't flow very often. If Grand Forks is serious about mosquito control, they need to seriously consider diverting more of the red through the coulee. As mentioned earlier, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Anonymous said...

"As mentioned earlier, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes."
- anon @ 3:59pm

I find it ironic that this came up today. I moved to Grand Forks recently and just the other day rode by the 'Coulee' (isn't it just a creek?) on the fitness trail behind Altru. I stopped at one point and thought to myself as I looked at the still water, "who would want to ride this trail during the summer? It must be filled with mosquitoes back here". I heard that they actually spray for the bugs here because they get so bad. Standing water is awful. Boost the flow!

C. Y. said...

There has been tons of money spent preventing too much flow in the English Coulee. If you do the Google Earth thing you will see the coulee ends in the Red River north of GF. If you follow it the other way you will see the English Coulee Diversion about 12 miles south west of GF. Other ditches between the diversion and GF funnel off some of the water and it's all done for flood control.

GrandForksGuy said...

Mosquitoes used to be very bad near the Coulee bike paths, but they haven't been an issue in recent years. In fact, ever since the city started to get so proactive with spraying, I don't notice much of a problem anywhere in town. Improving the mosquito control program was one of the smartest things our city has done in recent years. The difference over the last few years has been dramatic.

Andrew said...

While mosquitoes may be nicer this is because of chemical sprays. I wonder about the impact that this is having on the environment. Getting something done about the coulee that will get the water moving enough to avoid mosquito growth and introduce some oxygen into the water would do wonders for the smell and appearance of the coulee. I wonder what the plan Barta presented contains.

C. Y. said...

"I wonder what the plan Barta presented contains."

A link is the main post:

http://www.grandforksherald.com/articles/index.cfm?id=74204§ion=News

It looks like a pretty good idea and would make any area around the coulee nicer.

I would think the cleaning of the coulee would be a large quality of life thing in GF.

Anonymous said...

I love this stream of comments. It's positive and shows signs of community activism, which this town sorely lacks. People love to complain, but rarely do they pick up a rake or write a letter to their Council Member or Assemblyman about anything besides high taxes...

webmasterzero said...

thewanderingjew said...

I have only one question as you ponder this situation GFG: would you let your children swim in the Coulee?


Or the Red River for that matter?

The coulee has always had sort of a metallic smell to it, as does the Red - not sure why.

It's definitely not a superfund site, but it could use some cleaning up (the coulee). Actually, the Red could use some cleaning up as well...at least here in Fargo.

It's odd to see the city (of Fargo) using the Red River as a sort of direct dumping site of snow in the winter. Granted, they dump all the city snowfall that they scoop up onto the banks of the Red (not everywhere, but near Lindenwood Park) and let the grasses act as a sort of filter for street garbage that is caught up in the snow they place there.

Some of it makes it's way into the river; some doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Whenever someone in Fargo flushes, the water pressure goes up in Grand Forks' water supply.

Anonymous said...

I say the community should.. pick up a rake and get togather, maybe throw a cook out/ bake sale a get togather. come on, lets start a knocking on the doors and seeint where out neighbors stand, the kids would love this! Don't forget the mosq spray!!

lets get this storie on the news, in the paper ect..

It will be a begining of a new day here in EGF and GF...

Anonymous said...

I could see MAYBE see this happing, but we would def need the the advertisment.

I rememer knocking on the doors in the day. I had to do that to stop Builders from trying to put up Apartments on the Point, ( SE, EGF) this was Many, many yrs ago.

Small town and i have some mad builders that can't let this go. But.... The homes owners on the point Still pat me me on my back.

If it was not for me and the few ppl that got togather to make it happen... then were would we be.

I agree with the last post. Advertise the get togather, make is a fun/family/neighbor hood Time well spent.

We will then still have the 360K left over to finsh up the rest... maybe..

Make it a issue and it WILL get done.

Anonymous said...

Yes the English Coulee is stagnant. There is not any moving water, check behind Altru Hospital, it is gross. This should be cleaned first before Greenway, since it is in our back yard, mine too ! greenglass4

Anonymous said...

I live near the coolie and love the bike path south of UND to the edge of town, and the parks along the way. As it is, there are many birds and other wildlife; you can't get those without some wide slow water, and algae just comes with that to some extent. It would be very cheap and easy to increase the flow by tearing out parts of the several dams along the way, which would make it a narrow, clean stream, but we'd lose much of the unique wildlife. It's a trade off. Some of the article's suggestions might be useful though.

Jack Peterson said...

If you think the coulee doesn't smell that bad, you've clearly never been to Sertoma park in the summer.